As you fly into San Francisco International Airport, it can seem as if you are landing in the middle of the ocean, as the runway rests right on the edge of the water. It’s a breathtaking experience, even though you haven’t even discovered what is really astounding about the city yet: its food.
Start with a walk along Fisherman’s Wharf and stop at the flagship location of Boudin Bakery to try the clam chowder served in their famed sourdough bread bowls, made from their own signature bread starter since 1849.
"The starter uses the natural fog of the city to set the bread and gives Boudin its signature sourdough bread taste," explained a baker demonstrating the bread-making process from behind a 30-foot observation window that allows passersby on the sidewalk to get a glimpse of the process.
As you resume your walk, follow the mouthwatering aroma up the hill to Ghirardelli Square, home to the original Ghirardelli chocolate factory space. The current store still displays some of the original chocolate-making equipment. If you don’t consider yourself a chocolate fan, rest assured, the Ghirardelli offers 15 different kinds of sundaes as well as old-fashioned shakes, floats, and hot cocoa.
"You can’t beat our World Famous Hot Fudge Sundae. The combination of vanilla ice cream with an abundance of our freshly made hot fudge, real whipped cream, chopped almonds, and the finishing cherry is hard to resist," said Yvo Smit, vice president of Ghirardelli’s restaurant and retail division.
Head one mile south of Ghirardelli Square to the Fort Mason Center and treat yourself to a moveable feast in its parking lot from Off the Grid’s food trucks, which operate 15 weekly markets in the Bay Area and stop at this location on many Friday nights (check their website for details). Partake in live music while you explore the 30-some street food vendors, with offerings like Indian food from CurryUpNow, fusion tacos from Kung Fu Tacos, crème brûlée from the aptly named The Crème Brûlée Cart, and Chinese steamed buns from The Chairman Truck.
"I like to snack here and there to create a full meal," said Avital Ungar, owner of Avital Tours, who leads walking food tours in San Francisco.
Like Chicago with its deep-dish pizza and Texas with its famed barbecue, San Francisco has its own indigenous foods, including cioppino. This fish stew consists of anything left over from the day’s catch, such as crab, clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops, or fish. Ungar recommends trying Sotto Mare in North Beach, which claims to have, "The best damn Cioppino!"
Sotto Mare's cioppino is a must-try. Photo credit: Yelp / Gigi T
In San Francisco, hotels are not only a place to rest your head after a long day riding cable cars and walking across the Golden Gate Bridge — they’re also home to some memorable dining options. After a day filled with chocolate sundaes, sourdough bread, and cioppino, head to the Westin St. Francis. Order the tableside whiskey flight at Michael Mina’s BOURBON STEAK, which arrives on a cart. The trio of Hudson Whiskeys are individually torched tableside, aromatizing and accentuating each whiskey’s flavor profile.
Wind down the day with a whiskey flight. Photo credit: BOURBON STEAK San Francisco
Kat Ernst is the San Francisco City Editor for The Daily Meal.